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In 1974, Ronald DeFeo killed his entire family, including his parents, brothers and sisters, while they were sleeping in their beds.
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When police, suspicious that Butch was lying, asked him to come in to the station to check out mug shots of possible suspects, he refused to comply. Ronald Sr. began to suspect that his son had committed the robbery. But when he questioned his son about his lack of cooperation with police, Butch threatened to kill his father.
On the night of November 14, 1974, Butch DeFeo acted on his threat. Using a .35-caliber Marlin rifle from his secret gun stash, he entered his parents' bedroom and shot them both while they slept. He then entered his brothers' bedroom, shooting them both in their beds. He ended by shooting his sisters, point-blank, in their bedrooms. All the murders took place within 15 minutes. Butch then showered, dressed for work, and collected his bloody clothing and the murder weapon in a pillowcase. He dumped the evidence in a storm drain on the way to work at the dealership at 6 AM.
Upon arriving to work, Butch called home, pretending not to know why his father hadn't shown up for work. Saying he was bored around noon, he left work and spent the day with friends. He attempted to secure an alibi by telling each of the people he visited that he couldn't seem to reach anyone at home. At 6 PM, he called a friend in mock surprise, saying that someone had broken into the house and shot his family.
Friends came to the home and contacted authorities. When a Suffolk County detective questioned DeFeo about who could be a suspect in these murders, he told them he believed mafia hit man Louis Falini may have been responsible. Butch cited an old grudge between the made man and the DeFeo family over some work Butch did for him at the dealership. He then told police he had been up late watching TV and, unable to sleep, left for work early. He said he believed his family was alive when he left for work, then told them of his whereabouts for the rest of that day. Police placed Butch in protective custody as they searched for a suspect.
After police more carefully searched the DeFeo house, however, Butch's testimony began to crumble. Finding an empty box for a recently purchased .35-caliber Marlin gun in Butch's room gave authorities pause. As the timeline came together, it seemed more realistic that the murders had happened early in the morning—the family had all still been wearing their pajamas, so it couldn't have happened earlier in the day—placing Butch at home at the time of the homicides.
When authorities questioned Butch about the new evidence, he began changing his story. He said that Falini had appeared at the house early that morning, and put a revolver to DeFeo's head. He then said Falini and an accomplice drug Butch from room to room as they murdered his family. As the story unraveled, police extracted a confession from DeFeo. He finally broke down. "Once I started, I just couldn't stop," he said. "It went so fast."
DeFeo's trial began on October 14, 1975, nearly a year from the date of the murders.
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